Latest Toubkal Winter Conditions Report

I headed up on Sunday afternoon to the refuge with a group of 10 from the UK who had booked us for a 10-day logistics package. My main objective was to help settle them for their expedition into the Toubkal region of the High Atlas but I took the opportunity to have a look at the snowpack and what the current winter climbing condition are like.

 

Looking up at the Clocheton Breche, 31-3-14

Looking up at the Clocheton Breche, 31-3-14

 

Do get in touch with us at morocco@the-mountain-people.com if you are interested in our logistics packages for the Toubkal Massif area of the High Atlas!

 

Recent Weather

There was a big fall of snow starting on Friday afternoon to Saturday afternoon, which came down as far as Imlil (1,800m) covering the place with about four inches of snow. That snow has now gone with very little evidence of it left in Imlil and altitudes lower than 2,400m. This is due to the warmer weather we had on Sunday and Monday.

 

The weather is predicted to stay colder (freezing level at 2,500m) till Thursday and then things will warm up with the freezing level predicted to hover around the 4,000m mark.

 

Groups heading into the South Cwm of Toubkal, 31-3-14

Groups heading into the south cwm of Toubkal, 31-3-14

 

Snowpack

There is a concrete layer of hard snow that is easily identifiable as it has brown dust mixed into it.  This hard layer has, at higher altitudes, a layer of soft snow on top of it (one finger penetration on the hardness test), which I found to be 10 to 30cm in places around the Toubkal refuge.

 

I also found a one-inch sun crust in places. The softer layer showed poor to moderate bonding to the hard base. There is 17cm or so more snow predicted for Wednesday and then things are warming up after that, so be aware of heavy saturated snowpack sitting on top of a very hard névé base!

 

Another thing I found was patches of wind slab around the refuge which probably formed overnight. With the strong winds predicted, be aware of wind slab build up on NE aspects on Wednesday/Thursday and the build up on SW aspects late Thursday to early Friday.

 

Climbing Conditions (Scottish Grades)

The climbing conditions are pretty good at the moment. The Chockstone route IV on Afella looked good and Curtain Call VII,7 is looking doable. Also, one of the mixed routes on Toubkal West looks like it would go with a bit more ice build up it.

 

Chock Stone IV route on Afella, 30-3-14

Chockstone IV route on Afella, 30-3-14

 

Steep Ice around the Refuge! 30-3-14

Steep ice around the Refuge! 30-3-14

 

The Afekhoi cwm cascades looked again in good condition, as well as the small ice pitches around the Toubkal refuge.

 

Afekhoi cwm cascades, 31-3-14

Afekhoi cwm cascades, 31-3-14

 

With the freezing level predicted to head up to the 4,000m mark, the ice will start to go unless colder temperatures appear!

 

Refuge Access

There is good access to the Toubkal refuges with the path being clear of snow up to about a km short of the refuge. This means that mules are a good option for getting your kit and supplies up. With the snow predicted to fall down to about 2,500m tomorrow, porters may be need for but post Thursday mules again will suffice.

 

Looking back at Ras and Akioud both of which are 4,000m peaks, 31-3-14

Looking back at Ras and Akioud both of which are 4,000m peaks in the area, 31-3-14

Winter Conditions Summary

There is at present good snow cover in the High Atlas but with the warmer conditions predicted we will see a thinning of winter routes and the overall snow cover. The old névé layer of snow will start to soften and thin but will stick around for a while yet especially at the higher altitudes. Again, be aware of poor bonding of wind slab deposits and heavy saturated snow on top of a hard snowpack.

 

I will be out in the Eastern High Atlas guiding in the Mgoun area next week and will give a Toubkal Winter Conditions update when I return that will include conditions out east!

 

Again, keep an eye on the weather with these two websites:

 

Toubkal 31-3-14

Toubkal 31-3-14

Categories: Blog, Conditions, High Atlas, Ice Climbing, James, Morocco, Mountaineering, Winter
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